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La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language
by Dianne Hales

Published: 2010-04-20
Paperback : 336 pages
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“Italians say that someone who acquires a new language ‘possesses’ it. In my case, Italian possesses me. With Italian racing like blood through my veins, I do indeed see with different eyes, hear with different ears, and drink in the world with all my senses…”

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Introduction

“Italians say that someone who acquires a new language ‘possesses’ it. In my case, Italian possesses me. With Italian racing like blood through my veins, I do indeed see with different eyes, hear with different ears, and drink in the world with all my senses…”

A celebration of the language and culture of Italy, La Bella Lingua is the story of how a language shaped a nation, told against the backdrop of one woman’s personal quest to speak fluent Italian.

For anyone who has been to Italy, the fantasy of living the Italian life is powerfully seductive. But to truly become Italian, one must learn the language. This is how Dianne Hales began her journey. In La Bella Lingua, she brings the story of her decades-long experience with the “the world’s most loved and lovable language” together with explorations of Italy’s history, literature, art, music, movies, lifestyle, and food in a true opera amorosa—a labor of her love of Italy.

Throughout her first excursion in Italy—with “non parlo Italiano” as her only Italian phrase—Dianne delighted in the beauty of what she saw but craved comprehension of what she heard. And so she chose to inhabit the language. Over more than twenty-five years she has studied Italian in every way possible: through Berlitz, books, CDs, podcasts, private tutorials and conversation groups, and, most importantly, large blocks of time in Italy. In the process she found that Italian became not just a passion and a pleasure, but a passport into Italy’s storia and its very soul. She offers charming insights into what makes Italian the most emotionally expressive of languages, from how the “pronto” (“Ready!”) Italians say when they answer the telephone conveys a sense of something coming alive, to how even ordinary things such as a towel (asciugamano) or handkerchief (fazzoletto) sound better in Italian.

She invites readers to join her as she traces the evolution of Italian in the zesty graffiti on the walls of Pompeii, in Dante’s incandescent cantos, and in Boccaccio’s bawdy Decameron. She portrays how social graces remain woven into the fabric of Italian: even the chipper “ciao,” which does double duty as “hi” and “bye,” reflects centuries of bella figura. And she exalts the glories of Italy’s food and its rich and often uproarious gastronomic language: Italians deftly describe someone uptight as a baccala (dried cod), a busybody who noses into everything as a prezzemolo (parsley), a worthless or banal movie as a polpettone (large meatball).

Like Dianne, readers of La Bella Lingua will find themselves innamorata, enchanted, by Italian, fascinated by its saga, tantalized by its adventures, addicted to its sound, and ever eager to spend more time in its company.

Editorial Review

Book Description
â??Italians say that someone who acquires a new language â??possessesâ?? it. In my case, Italian possesses me. With Italian racing like blood through my veins, I do indeed see with different eyes, hear with different ears, and drink in the world with all my senses...â??

A celebration of the language and culture of Italy, La Bella Lingua is the story of how a language shaped a nation, told against the backdrop of one womanâ??s personal quest to speak fluent Italian.

For anyone who has been to Italy, the fantasy of living the Italian life is powerfully seductive. But to truly become Italian, one must learn the language. This is how Dianne Hales began her journey. In La Bella Linguaa, she brings the story of her decades-long experience with the â??the worldâ??s most loved and lovable languageâ?? together with explorations of Italyâ??s history, literature, art, music, movies, lifestyle and food in a true opera amorosaâ??a labor of her love of Italy.

Throughout her first excursion in Italyâ??with â??non parlo Italianoâ?? as her only Italian phraseâ??Dianne delighted in the beauty of what she saw but craved comprehension of what she heard. And so she chose to inhabit the language. Over more than twenty-five years she has studied Italian in every way possible through Berlitz, books, CDs, podcasts, private tutorials and conversation groups, and, most importantly, large blocks of time in Italy. In the process she found that Italian became not just a passion and a pleasure, but a passport into Italyâ??s storia and its very soul. She offers charming insights into what it is that makes Italian the most emotionally expressive of languages, from how the â??prontoâ?? (â??Ready!â??) Italians say when they answer the telephone conveys a sense of something coming alive, to how even ordinary things such as a towel (asciugamano) or handkerchief (fazzoletto) sound better in Italian.

She invites readers to join her as she traces the evolution of Italian in the zesty graffiti on the walls of Pompeii, in Danteâ??s incandescent cantos and in Boccaccioâ??s bawdy Decameron. She portrays how social graces remain woven into the fabric of Italian: even the chipper â??ciao,â?? which does double duty as â??hiâ?? and â??bye,â?? reflects centuries of bella figura. And she exalts the glories of Italyâ??s food and its rich and often uproarious gastronomic language: Italians deftly describe someone uptight as a baccala (dried cod), a busybody who noses into everything as a prezzemolo (parsley), a worthless or banal movie as a polpettone (large meatball).

Like Dianne, readers of La Bella Lingua will find themselves innamorata, enchanted, by Italian, fascinated by its saga, tantalized by its adventures, addicted to its sound, and ever eager to spend more time in its company.

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Dianne Hales

Question: Why did you decide to write a book on Italian?

Dianne Hales: As a journalist, I know a great story when I see oneâ??and the story of how Italian became the worldâ??s most enchanting language has everything: adventure, drama, passion, beautiful women, gallant heroes, unscrupulous scoundrelsâ??not to mention glorious music and fabulous food.

Question: Whom did you write this book for?

Dianne Hales: People who enjoy Italian food, music, art, film, travel and traditions. If you love Italy, youâ??ll love learning about its language. If you come from an Italian family, youâ??ll discover more about your heritage. If youâ??re studying Italian, youâ??ll find a new perspective that takes you beyond vocabulary and grammar. If youâ??re traveling to Italy, youâ??ll appreciate more about the people you meet and the places you visit. And if youâ??re an armchair adventurerâ??well, buckle your seat belt!

Question: Why and when did you start studying Italian?

Dianne Hales: I decided to study Italian more than twenty years ago so I could communicate with the friendly people we met on our travels in Italy. My goal was just to understand and be understood. However, the more Italian I learned, the more I wanted to know about Italianâ??where it came from, how it evolved, why itâ??s so musical and vibrant. I had so much fun in Italian classes and conversation groups that I didnâ??t want to stop my Italian educationâ??and I never have.

Question: How did you do go about researching La Bella Lingua?

Dianne Hales: I used all the skills I honed in decades as a journalist and textbook author. I took classes in Italian language, history and culture both in the U.S. and in Italy. I worked very closely with a wonderful Italian tutor in San Francisco. In Italy I went to the great citadels of Italian, such as Lâ??Accademia della Crusca and the Società Dante Alighieri, to interview leading linguists and scholars. But my greatest resources turned out to be the Italian people, who have deep pride in their mother tongue and infinite patience with those who try to master it.

(Photo © Robert Hales)

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Book Club Recommendations

Food and games.
by Madam Secretary (see profile) 03/14/11
We had some Italian appetizers and, of course, tiramisu and bisciotti for dessert accompanied by wine. Our host had postcards with questions to see what we remembered from the book and the winner received a jar of Nutella.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "La Bella Lingua"by Madam Secretary (see profile) 03/14/11

What a fabulous way to understand and learn the history of a language. It was fun reading about the etymology of words and phrases and how sometimes saying one things can be so opposite what you really... (read more)

 
  "Amo italiano!"by linnapoos (see profile) 03/14/11

I learned so much from this book.....and I so enjoyed the italian language throughout!

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